The Five Smallest Displacement Engines Found In Production Cars of 2016

Engines are always a fascinating topic, but everyone seems to focus on extremes. The biggest, loudest, most powerful, and most complicated.
Three cylinder engine found in smart fortwo and forfour 8 photos
Photo: smart
Tata NanoCaterham Seven 160Caterham Seven 160Maruti Suzuki CelerioFiat 500 faceliftFiat 0.9 TwinAir engine in 500Smart ForTwo
After yesterday’s story regarding the cars that you can buy in 2016 that have the largest displacement engines currently being manufactured for automobiles, it was time for the other side of the story. We took to the Internet and made another list, which is comprised of the vehicles that have the smallest engines available in a productiion passenger car.

All the cars on the list had to have engines that were as small as possible when displacement is concerned, and the vehicle itself must be a passenger vehicle and not a quadricycle.

Just to keep things interesting, we did include two vehicles that have a limited market availability, but this only happened because we wanted a bit more variety in the selection.

Instead of downsized engines, we wanted to look at the cars that were designed from the beginning to have a minuscule power plant. In spite of a small motor, these vehicles still do their jobs as intended, although it does not happen at a brisk pace every single time.

Each of these vehicles is interesting, but from an entirely different point than the automobiles that we featured in the article that focused on largest displacement engines you can get in a car in 2016.

Unlike cars with large engines, these vehicles are impressive because they can do more than enough for most, with so little. That is their magic, and nothing can take that away from them.

Tata Nano - 624 cc

Tata Nano
Photo: Tata Motors
The car that was described as the most affordable vehicle in the world is eight years old. Sales are dwindling, but you can still buy it in India. Evidently, safety regulations prevent it from reaching Europe or the USA, but this is more than an upgrade for those that used to carry their families on a motorcycle.

Unfortunately for Ratan Tata, his dream of getting as many Indian families as possible off scooters and into the Nano did not materialize per se, as the Nano was considered too expensive compared to a motorcycle by some people in the target audience, while others preferred a second-hand car.

Regardless, the vehicle comes with a two-cylinder gasoline engine with multi-port fuel injection. It has a displacement of 624 cubic centimeters, or 38 cubic inches. The unit is a “square engine,” as it has the bore equal to the stroke, both at 72.5 millimeters (2.9 inches). Peak output is rated at 38 HP, while the level of torque is 51 Nm (38 lb-ft). It can drive faster than 62 mph, but it tops out at 105 km/h (65 mph).

Caterham Seven 160 - 660 cc

Caterham Seven 160
Photo: Caterham
The brand specialized in lightweight sports cars has outdone itself with this one. It is called the Caterham Seven 160, or 165 in mainland Europe, and it comes with an engine that has a displacement of just 660 cubic centimeters. It tops out at an impressive 100 mph (162 km/h), which is impressive for a car with an engine this small.

The British entry-level sportscar has a Suzuki-sourced engine under its hood, and it has been turbocharged to develop 80 HP. The trick is that the roadster has been simplified to the maximum, which brings it the ability to accelerate from a stand still to 96 km/h (60 mph) in just 6.5 seconds. No power steering and other eliminated comfort features mean less weight and more purity.

You must admit that the Tata Nano and the Caterham Seven 160 were the least likely cars one could think of putting together on the same list, and their differences in performance seem to explain why. Regardless, both are rear-wheel-drive marvels of weight saving ideas.

Maruti Suzuki Celerio Diesel - 793 cc

Maruti Suzuki Celerio
Photo: Maruti Suzuki
India appears to be the spot to be if you want a car with a small engine. Maruti, a local company, sells cars that are developed or built on Suzuki platforms. Their presence on our list is called the Celerio, and is also the only diesel in this article.

Its makers describe it as the most economical car in India, and this statement appears to be true for more than just that market if you only consider internal combustion engines.

Just like the Nano, the Celerio Diesel comes with a two cylinder engine. The unit has a displacement of 793 cubic centimeters, and it develops 125 Nm (92 lb-ft). The unit is turbocharged and features an intercooler to provide 47 BHP. It is not much, but it is claimed to deliver 27.62 kilometers for every liter it uses, which equates to about 65 mpg.

We are sure you are envious of that fuel economy, but safety standards in most countries would not allow this model on the road in its current configuration. It does have ABS, dual frontal airbags, and EBD, but the NHTSA or the EuroNCAP would probably give it a rating of one star, if any.

Fiat 500 0.9 Twin Air - 875 cc

Fiat 500 facelift
Photo: Fiat
The Maestros of small cars at Fiat have managed to offer the only two cylinder engine available on an automobile in Europe. It is called Twin Air, and it delivers 85 HP and 107 lb-ft of torque (145 Nm). Unlike the cars previously mentioned, this one got a good EuroNCAP rating, and comes with modern safety amenities like ESP and others.

Fiat’s little powerplant is turbocharged and comes with multipoint injection. The idea was to provide the lowest possible emissions level without hindering drivability. You can get this engine with various other models from the Italian company, but it is not that widespread as Ford’s one-liter EcoBoost, for example.

Acceleration from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) is achieved in 11 seconds, and the top speed is an incredible 172 km/h, or 107 mph. Combined fuel economy is rated at 3.8 liters for 100 kilometers in the NEDC cycle, which comes to about 61.9 mpg. Interestingly, this engine is not an entry-level option for the Fiat 500, but a mid-range unit.

smart fortwo 0.9 - 898 cc

Smart ForTwo
Photo: Smart
The previous generation of smart cars used to have a 599cc engine, which had a three cylinder configuration. It was later upgraded to a bigger displacement unit that had 698 cubic centimeters. Serious stuff there. The diesel option offered at a later date came with a massive displacement of 799 cubic centimeters.

Currently, the smart fortwo comes with two engine options, and it is available with a manual gearbox as well. The smallest power plant in the range is an 898 cubic centimeter turbocharged engine, which originates from the Renault Group.

It develops 90 HP and 100 lb-ft (136 Nm) of torque. This makes the fortwo faster than the Fiat 500 TwinAir from a stand still, but not by much. The Italian does beat it in top speed.

An honorable mention here is that the unit is sold in many cars from the Dacia range in the same form and tune. These are bigger and cheaper than the smart fortwo, and they successfully integrated this engine within their lineups. Those looking for a bit more features can also have it in a Renault Clio.
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Editor's note: The list could have been much longer if we had included just about every Kei Car that is still manufactured and sold in Japan, but the Land of the Rising Sun is pretty much their only market.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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